New Year Marathon

Part of my mother’s family (Lapointe)

My mother grew up in a very large family with thirteen siblings, most of whom got married and had kids of their own. When it came time for celebrations, there would often be over a hundred people, when you counted all my aunts, uncles, and cousins.  The biggest of all the celebrations was New Year’s Eve.

Back in the seventies, the annual New Year’s Eve party would start at around 8:00pm, in a hall that was part of the home town church my mother and father were married in.  While my uncle played the fiddle, and my cousin played the accordion, the whole family would dance and party the night away.  Of course, there was always some alcohol for the adults, and more than a few would have a bit too much, but they were always a fun loving bunch.  All of us kids would have a blast running and playing in the huge hall.

Uncle Marc, playing fiddle

Then at the stroke of midnight, the music would stop, and every person would wander around the hall, trying to wish every other person, one by one, a Happy New Year.  At around 1:00AM, when most people would start to think about going home, the whole gang headed downstairs into a large dining hall, where all the families sat down, and ate a big meal.  It was like a huge picnic, but in the dead of winter, with all the Coleman coolers, disposable plates, and plastic cutlery.

There were multiple ovens and stoves and late as it was, the smell of meat pies (tourtières), and other traditional holiday treats stirred our appetites. We all sat down as one great big family, chatting animatedly like we would never see each other again, and eating our very early morning repast.  Afterwards, at around 2:30AM, most of the families would pack up, and drive home.  By 3:30AM, most of us were tucked into bed, exhausted by the hours of dancing, drinking, and feasting.

Typical New Year’s Eve

I say most of us, because every New Year’s Eve, there was always one branch of my mother’s family that just kept right on partying.  Two of my mother’s sisters had married two brothers from the Veilleux family.  Roughly translated, the French name “Veilleux” can mean partier, or, more literally, “one who stayed up late”.  Indeed, these two Veilleux families would continue to party after our post-midnight meal.  Instead of going home, they would travel to every relative’s house, waking up each family by singing traditional French folk songs on the porch, while merrily ringing the doorbell.

These Veillieux’s would then try to convince each family they woke up to join them, and continue the singing and dancing at the next family’s house.  My particular family would have been barely sleeping for two or three hours when our doorbell rang at about 6:30 or 7:00 in the morning.  I can’t remember if my parents ever joined in, but one particular year, my parents were so comatose they never answered the door, and the singing on our porch got so loud, the neighbours called the police.

Mom and Dad, dancing the night away

As if this was not enough of a marathon, on my father’s side of the family, they celebrated on New Year’s Day, starting at around mid-afternoon, until around 10:00PM that evening.  With only four or five hours of sleep, we would have to wake up and prepare for that event with bags under our eyes, not at all feeling like going to yet another party.  All told, from 8:00PM December 31 to 10:00PM January 1, for many years running, my family had to endure almost ten hours of drinking, dancing and eating, all in a fourteen hour period. I’m not quite sure how my parents survived it all.

I for one am not cut from the same cloth.  Ever since I moved out of my parent’s house, my New Year’s Eve celebrations are done in the privacy of my own quiet home.  Now blessed as I am with a loving wife and child, we continue our quiet New Year’s celebrations together, playing games, baking cookies, and watching movies, before the hectic pace of life takes over again.

I wish you all good health, and good luck for 2014.

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3 Responses to New Year Marathon

  1. Bonnie says:

    That does sound like a marathon — an endurance test! Insane…

  2. Erik Menard says:

    The Veilleux side of your family sound a lot like how My Newfie Brother in Law Warren described the old “Mummers” tradition in Newfoundland to us this Christmas


    • JC Audet says:

      This brings back good memories. our family being good catholics, of course the X-Mas celebrations would get their official kick-off with Midnight Mass. the whole family would go there, one person with strong cooking abilities staying home to finish preparations for the Réveillon: a fabulous meal where family, immediate and extended, and friends would partake, beginning after that Mass, say around 2:30 AM (yeah that Mass was that long with much choir singing and festive organ music and all those things from a bygone era). That meal was followed by dancing: my dad would push the furniture out of our huge country kitchen and folk dancing would be the order of business until somebody would notice that daylight had shown up once more. Folks would start to leave shortly after that as most of them were farmers and had barns full of animals to tend to. And for good measure, there would be some more visiting and dancing and such after the X-Mas dinner, to make sure that nothing was missed. then a few days rest and start all over again for New Year’s. What about kids sleeping? Well, we all loved it, couldn’t wait to be old enough to dance and eventually drink, and it was always over way too soon. Oh yeah, we did catch some sleep here and there when we could or had no choice.
      This sounds a bit over the top? Just consider that I do remember, very fondly, going to the X-Mass in a horse drawn sleigh, with the bells. what do you think, the roads were not plowed then. And I am not telling you my age!!!

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